My name's Kevin C. Sullivan, and I swear to you I'm not losing my mind. I've written for numerous sites before, including the award-winning (well, nominated for sure) myvideogames.com and the winner of My-Mom-Thought-It-Was-A-Good-Site Award, Steam-Works.com. Currently I'm doing reviews for The-Lowdown.net and now I'm throwing a weekly rambling towards the guys at CV-games.com, who is sending me to E3.
You remember that crap your mom (or closest equivalent to said parental unit) used to make you eat as a kid? You didn't want to eat it, and you have your reasons. So, she would counter with "how do you know you don't like it if you never try it?" Sure, you could throw back a "I've never been shot in the face before either, but I'm sure that wouldn't be very pleasant, either," but she did have a point. I think the creation of Fresh Games, a company that brings out titles from Japan that wouldn't normally see the light of day in the US, is trying to use that logic with both the game buying public and other pubishers as well.
Recently, Fresh Games, owned by Eidos, put out two very different games. Mr. Mosquito, which is pretty much what it sounds like, and Mad Maestro, which is kind of like Gitaroo-Man except with Classic music. These are two games that, if they were released a year ago, would probably have never seen the light of day. Why? Because normal convention (whatever the heck that is) says that games like this are simply too weird for us Americans, who seem to prefer stunning graphics and over-the-top violence and gore to actual gameplay. Can't hardly blame 'em, though, since that's what sells.
However, if you don't throw something different out on the table every so often, you're never going to know if the kids are going to eat it up or not. In a way, it's much like the natural procession of evolution. As conditions change, so do tastes and expectations. Much in the same way that a species will die off if some change isn't made eventually to it's biological make-up, games will grow stale and essentially unplayable if something new isn't thrown into the mix. And sometimes that means leaving the village and dipping into another gene pool. In this case, that pool is the hot springs of Japan.
Years and years ago, it would be unfathomable to think that any video game would sell that wasn't originally made in Japan. Nowadays, you have developers all over the world, and top selling games are just as likely to be developed here in the States or over in Europe as they are on the most powerful non-Communist nation of the Pacific Rim. In return, most of the games coming from Japan have been more on the edge: bursting with creativity, but doesn't exactly shoot for the lowest common denominator. But, as we've seen with RPGs and music games, when you aim in a different direction, sometimes it comes flying back and hits a lot more people than you were expecting and� uh� all right, so I didn't exactly think that metaphor out all the way. Sue me.
When something news comes out, a lot of companies do one of two things. They either blatantly rip off the new idea or they take it, tinker with it, and make it even better. For years, the Japanese have been doing the latter. Now, they're really starting to show some real innovation, and it's time for not just other developers, but the gaming public, to sit up and take notice and try something new. There's a lot of great games out there right now, but as great as they are, a lot of them are rehashes of old product. I liked Devil may Cry and Onimusha a lot, but I also thought they were good when they were called Resident Evil. It's an example of taking an idea, tinkering with it and making it better, but in the end, you're still not much deeper in the gene pool than you were before (although the controls are a heck of a lot better, I assure you).
Keep an eye on Fresh Games you gamers and developers alike, and just see if what they're publishing isn't catching on. Then perhaps you, my gaming friends, won't be so scared to try something new, and you, my friends in the labs, won't be so afraid to make and market that new thing which my aforementioned gaming friends won't be so afraid to play.
I'm not on drugs, seriously.
See you next time.